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RIP Polly Samuel

Also known as Donna Williams, the author of the Nobody Nowhere autobiography series, Exposure Anxiety: The Invisible Cage, many other books, and the music albums Nobody Nowhere (2000) and Mutation (2005). She was also a fine artist and performing artist and gave presentations on autism all over the world.

She and her work had a massive impact on our life. j-t was thirteen when her eighth grade English teacher and mentor nudged her towards Nobody Nowhere. The fragmentary image of Willie's glowing green eyes under the bed was one of her first clues into the connection with Daria and what we much later learned was multiplicity. Years later, after we'd moved to another country, her other mentor called her up - having just discovered Nobody Nowhere herself - because she recognized aspects of j-t in it.

That was the year, junior year of college, that we entered into counselling and eventually came to recognize that we were on the autism spectrum. We were slowly making our way through the third autobiography then, trying to integrate its understanding a few pages at a time, and obsessively listening to Donna's first music CD.

Later, over the Christmas break of senior year, I found a comments entry form on Donna's website of the time, inviting people to respond to her books. I wrote to her the following:

"I found it when I was thirteen and it was the kind of book I barely dared look at because somebody might realize I saw an echo of familiarity in it. I checked it out of the library, devoured it and decided that I must be perfectly normal because the things you'd experienced were far more extreme than anything I knew. But your Willie was a brother to my Daria (who had an iron grip on me at the time) and your Simply Be was an echo of how things were when I was too young to know enough to be shameful of the symbol games I played.

"Seven years later, after Daria had dragged me by brute force out into the world and as a result I had friends, a boyfriend, and the first half of a college degree, I finally got overwhelmed and desperate (and safe, because I was living hundreds of miles from anyone who knew me) enough to secretly check myself into the school's counselling office. My first friend Catherine had coincidentally just discovered Nobody Nowhere and called me, asking if I thought it had anything to do with what I was. I told her I wasn't autistic, I'd never been meaning blind, but some common pattern had to exist here. Reminded of the book, I googled you and found and ordered your music.

"'Behind Enemy Lines' hit me like coming face to face with Daria in the real world. But shock and horror quickly vanished and for days, even a few notes of that song would catapult me into that familiar state of vicious, driving energy. Then one night I backtracked to 'Beyond the When'. And through the miracle of modern technology, your words came across the ether and into my ears to hold me in a place I thought I could never be touched. I thought to myself that you were the only person I knew of in the universe who might understand. Because it was all real.

"I fought to open my mouth and explain it to my therapist but finally had to revert to the old method I would have used with Catherine: body turned away, eyes averted, hand shoving the portable CD player, headphones, and printed lyrics towards him.

"And of course everything went uphill from there. It's been a couple months and life, as always, is wonderful.

"So I want to thank you for being one of the most inspirational people I've ever discovered, for proving by example that it's possible to protect your world at all costs. And then turning around and proving that it's just as possible to live free without being crushed or torn apart for it."

She answered the next day.

"wow [irlname],

I get many letters, but yours equally left me with chills.
I am smiling with this.
I understand these two extremes utterly,
I understand the deal with Daria utterly
All it cost
All it gave
And being still in there
safe, yet buried
progressively connected
like we were pushed out the door faster than we could catch up
yet for survival we found a way
then picked up the pieces later.


Patchwork people are one quilt, like anybody else.
A quilt is a quilt
When the pieces are stitched together
They function as a whole.

:-) Donna Williams *)

ps: I'm currently recording CD number 2."


In the dream home that j-t had designed in her head, there was a reproduction of Donna Williams' sculpture My World-'The World' at the end of the entry hall/art gallery.

A life-size bronze sculpture of a nude young woman, holding an apple high in her right hand and gazing into it. Her left hand is behind her, palm out, as if to ward something off.

I just discovered she's left an incredible array of entries in her blog about her thoughts preparing for death and how she would like to be remembered afterwards. I'm going to have to read through this slowly 'cause I know I'm going to end up crying a lot.

She writes, "I felt really strongly I didn’t want a funeral and when I learned I didn’t have to have one, or a grave or any of the trappings, it fitted me. ... I wanted those who loved me to remember and celebrate me in nature, where I belong and will endure in a spiritual place and to make a personal alter or plant a plant to commemorate me where they can commune with me within their own world, for I am a patchwork of all who loved me just as they are, so this is where I live, in life, and after leaving my body."

We're not in a place yet where we can do this. So instead I'm going to take a risk and set this entry to public, at least for now.

Edit: Removed the "Vale" from the post title, which I learned is actually a Latin honorific for the deceased, meaning "farewell", not a first name as I had thought.